Portraying ease of use in static ads

01Mar10

I’ve seen a ton of ads for Palm lately, with their Pre and Pixi phone series showing up on billboards, buses and other out-of-home locations. From what I’ve read, Palm’s webOS software that powers these phones is more elegant and easier-to-use than anything else on the market, including the iPhone. But Palm has had a tough time getting consumers to understand the benefits, and the recent onslaught of outdoor ads probably isn’t helping.

Here’s the issue: it’s really hard to show that a product is easy to use when you’re working with a static ad spot, like a magazine ad or billboard. You basically have three options:

– Include screenshots of the interface. Unfortunately, everything looks pretty and shiny in a still image, so screenshots alone do little to differentiate the product.

– Design the ad itself to look clean, elegant and accessible. This gets the right message across, but isn’t very useful when your competitors are already taking advantage of the minimalist aesthetic.

– Interview actual customers who use your product and your top competitors’ products, and include the survey results and testimonials in the ad. Assuming you’re clear and transparent about the methodology, this may have the best chance of convincing people that your product really is easier to use.

Based on the ads I’ve seen, Palm is mainly going with the screenshots approach, which isn’t going to get them very far when people are already convinced that the iPhone has the best user interface. Meanwhile, if you look back at how Motorola and Verizon launched the Droid, they positioned it directly against the iPhone on a feature by feature basis, and generated fairly impressive sales numbers. Sure, hearing that actual customers like it better than the iPhone would probably be even more effective, but at least they made an effort to go beyond screenshots and force a comparison with the competing products.



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